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Coffee? Tea? Neither? Both?

There is been a long standing debate concerning which caffeinated drink has more of a health benefit: coffee or tea. This debate will most likely never be decided since those who love their morning coffee will probably argue the wonderfulness of a good cup of "joe" while the tea lovers will give a list of the perceived health benefits of their drink of choice. Neither person would be making an incorrect statement but each would be stating their own preference. There are health benefits to both coffee and tea.

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Coffee tends to get a bad rap when it comes to its effect on a person's health. Older studies have linked coffee to cancer and heart disease, however in more recent studies coffee has been shown to actually be beneficial. Some of the older claims came from research that did not control for a person's high risk behaviors such as smoking or being overweight. Recent studies have shown that a moderate amount of coffee consumption (2-3 cups a day) is positive for health. This is because coffee contains a large amount of antioxidants. The caffeine content of coffee depends on how the coffee is prepared but standard drip coffee has about 115 mg per cup. Many people mistakenly think espresso is higher in caffeine then regular drip coffee but it only contains approximately 80 mg of caffeine per cup.
   
Most people know black, green and herbal tea but there are a few other teas that are consumed which include white, oolong, rooibos and mate. All of the teas are believed to have some health benefits. Green and herbal teas are usually the ones being advertised for the most health benefits. Green tea is thought to help boost the immune system while herbal teas are high in antioxidants and some contain vitamins. White tea has recently been advertised more for its health benefits in fighting aging. It is also very high in antioxidants. When it comes to caffeine herbal tea does not contain any, white tea has approximately 1% of what a cup of coffee contains and green tea approximately 5-10% of coffee.
   
So is tea better than coffee or coffee better than tea? Both can be positive when consumed in a moderate amount. Both coffee and tea contain antioxidants that are known to fight free radicals in the body. Free radicals are harmful to the body because they disrupt the normal processes of cells in the body. Antioxidants are important because they bond with free radicals to make them more stable not allowing them to damage the cell. Herbal, white and green tea are all lower in caffeine then coffee which is why many people select coffee for their morning pick me up. However mate tea contains the same amount of caffeine as coffee and has antioxidants. Personal preference will most likely continue to be the guide most people will follow when selecting their caffeinated drink. Each drink brings it own unique flavor and health benefit to the table. In the end, both are beneficial to a person's health.

Grete R. Hornstrom is a Clinical Dietitian who is currently specializing in pediatric care. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Physical Education with a concentration in Exercise Science from Kent State University, a Master of Arts in Wellness Management from Ball State University, and a Master of Science in Dietetics from Ball State University. She has worked with overweight children and adults, recreational and elite athletes, chronically ill children, and every day people on developing nutrition plans and healthy lifestyle changes. In addition she has worked with recreational teams, high school teams, and college teams educating them on the importance of nutrition and performance. She has completed one marathon and three half marathons in the last two years. Her newest sport of choice is cycling.


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